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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

8 Putin Visits in 57 Years of Diplomacy

ReutersKissinger meeting Lavrov on Thursday. He has participated in 57 of the 200 years of U.S.-Russian diplomatic ties.
While the United States and Russia commemorate their bicentennial of diplomatic ties this year, Henry Kissinger should be at the celebrations' helm as he participated in 57 of the 200 years -- more than 25 percent, "to my horror," he said late last week.

Kissinger, 84, once the doyen of U.S. foreign policy, though he now holds no office in the U.S. government, was in Moscow officially to attend a U.S.-Russian conference organized by the U.S. Embassy and the Academy of Sciences to honor the anniversary.

But he talked to President Vladimir Putin over the telephone in a brief exchange of opinion over international affairs Thursday afternoon, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed Saturday. He said he would not elaborate because the conversation was private.

Kissinger has met Putin at least eight times in the past six years, most recently in Moscow in July.

On Thursday he also had talks with First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Interfax reported.

The bicentennial notwithstanding, relations between the powers have over the past months slid to post-Cold War lows, as Washington and Moscow are deeply at odds over issues like missile defense, Kosovo and arms control.

But Kissinger said that even though much emphasis has been on disagreement recently, he believed that this was "the prelude to a fundamental understanding."

In a speech Thursday night at Spaso House, the U.S. ambassador's residence, he pointed to deficits of both U.S. and Russian foreign policies. While the United States swings between isolationism and assertiveness, "the belief that we have the right to improve everybody abroad," Russia's problem was its obsession with security. "No country can have absolute security," Kissinger said, because "absolute security for one country means absolute insecurity for other countries."

Kissinger, who served as U.S. President Richard Nixon's secretary of state and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, prided himself and his former Soviet colleagues, whom he called "comrades," as having saved the world from nuclear war. "We tried to navigate the world to a better end," he said.

Even today, he stressed, both countries could "make a tremendous contribution to the peace of the world," pointing out that Washington and Moscow together controlled 95 percent of the world's nuclear arsenal.

Kissinger suggested that much of the countries' common interests lie in Iran and the Middle East, saying that neither wanted to be at war with the Muslim world and that both should have a common strategy to counter radical Islam. The United States has been advocating a tough line against Iran, which it says is developing nuclear weapons. Russia opposes sanctions and argues that there is no evidence to back the U.S. allegations.

Asked whether U.S. President George W. Bush will order an attack on Iran in the last year of his presidency, Kissinger said that he did not believe there would be a war with Iran next year, but added that people tended to be less convinced "the more I say this."

Kissinger said the first Russian he ever met was a Cossack -- when he had advanced as a soldier with the 84th Infantry Division to the river Elbe in Germany in 1945 and a Soviet Cossack regiment greeted the Americans from the opposite bank.

Staff Writer Natalya Krainova contributed to this report.